Fact Checked

What Causes Black Teeth? Causes and Treatment

Written by Fernanda Elizalde

January 23, 2023

Medically Reviewed

By Dr. Greg Grillo, DDS

Few things can disrupt the glowing appearance of a bright white smile like a black tooth. And when that black tooth can't be fixed with teeth whitening products or a simple cleaning, the problem can become distressing.

What exactly is it that causes black teeth? And how can you avoid them — or, at the very least, treat them?

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The Common Causes of Black Teeth

Fortunately, most of the reasons teeth turn black are preventable.


Sometimes, black teeth are simply the result of staining caused by different foods and substances: coffee, red wine, foods with dark pigments, tobacco, or certain medications like liquid iron supplements. They can also be caused by fillings or crowns that contain silver sulfide.

Poor Oral Hygiene or Internal Damage

Failing to care for your teeth can result in tooth decay, one of the leading causes of black teeth. This issue occurs when dental enamel is damaged by acids and bacteria, leaving a cavity that can continue to grow, causing the tooth to begin looking black.

Sometimes, blood flow can be cut off to the dental pulp, leading to a dead tooth that will become black. Pulp infections can lead to black teeth and is one of the most common causes of a single black tooth. These are two good examples of a blackened tooth that can't be treated cosmetically.


When plaque sticks around long enough in the mouth, it can turn into a hard deposit known as tartar. In some cases, tartar will appear black, especially near the gum line.

How to prevent black teeth

How to Prevent Black Teeth

It's much better to take preventive measures to avoid black teeth than it is to seek treatment for them. Fortunately, those preventive measures aren't all that difficult, in most cases.

Protect Your Tooth Enamel

Tooth enamel is the hard outer layer of your teeth. While it is incredibly strong, it's still susceptible to wear if you don't take the proper care.

Good oral hygiene is obviously one way to protect your enamel, but you should also maintain a healthy diet if you want to keep your teeth strong. Probiotic foods and anything rich in calcium, phosphorous, and vitamin D are great for enamel.

Poor oral hygiene is another underlying cause of black teeth. Everything from tartar buildup to dental decay to staining can be prevented or, at the very least, minimized with good oral care. Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and floss once a day, every day.

Avoid Tobacco Products and Foods that Stain

Smoking and chewing tobacco can cause your teeth to turn black, so curbing those habits should be your top priority if you're looking to avoid a discolored smile.

You should also watch your intake of dark berries, wine, pasta sauce, coffee, and dark-colored sodas if you want to avoid stains on your teeth. You don't need to cut them out entirely, but minimizing how much you consume will go a long way toward maintaining a bright white smile.

Make Regular Dentist Visits

No one is more skilled at preventing black teeth than a dental professional. They not only perform routine oral exams to accurately assess the state of your oral health but also provide you with a deep cleaning that reaches below the gum line in order to combat stains, tooth discoloration, and decay. You should visit a dental practice once every six months to prevent teeth turning black.

Treatment for Black Teeth: Teeth Whitening and Dental Care

Should you take all the necessary precautions and still wind up with a black tooth, don't worry; there are multiple treatments you can seek in order to restore your smile.

If eating some kind of food or drink has turned your teeth black, many great whitening products can combat that staining. You will still want to reduce your intake of whatever caused those stains, though.

Teeth can turn black from tartar, which means that removing plaque and tartar can turn them white again. Your dentist can do this with ultrasonic instruments.

If tooth decay is the cause, your dentist can remove the blackened area and replace it with a tooth-colored composite filling or a crown.

If you have a dead tooth, extracting the entire tooth may be the only answer. However, if the tooth is just infected, a root canal treatment may be able to save it. A root canal involves your dentist removing the infected dental pulp and then placing a crown over the tooth.

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Here are some common queries regarding black teeth. 

Is It Serious When Teeth Turn Black?

Unless you're in severe pain, then a black tooth is likely nothing to contact the emergency dentist over. However, you should still schedule an appointment with your dentist, as it's best to catch decay in its early stages. The tooth may also have a silent infection that can eventually turn into a serious infection.

Is a Black Tooth Permanent?

Rotten teeth or dead teeth are usually the only reasons a black tooth would be permanent. Even then, a root canal and dental restoration can help bring back your bright white smile.

Can Only Natural Teeth Become Black?

No, a false tooth can also begin to turn black if it's filled with metal amalgam. This type of black tooth can be tricky to treat without covering it with a dental cap, or crown.

When Is Tooth Removal Necessary?

A dentist will only remove black teeth if they are dead, severely damaged, or decayed beyond repair, as any of these issues left untreated can only lead to more problems.

A Blackened Tooth Is Not Just About Appearances

Teeth color is important to most people, but discolored teeth can be more serious than a simple cosmetic issue. It's vital to see your dentist if you're worried about black spots on your upper or lower teeth.

Avoid Tooth Decay: Get a Bright and Healthy Smile with SNOW

If your teeth are stained and you're feeling self-conscious, take a look at SNOW's award-winning selection of whitening products today and get the bright white smile you've always wanted.

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